Speech by Ronald Mofokeng during the debate on the consideration of the report of the SCOPA on the Mine Health and Safety Council

23 September 2008

For the year 2006/2007 financial year, the Auditor-General expressed a qualified audit opinion on the financial statements of the Mine Health and Safety Council. This was a reversal of the unqualified report received by the entity in 2005/2006, the first in a number of years.

Before elaborating on the details of the audit report, it is important that we remind ourselves of the crucial responsibility that has been entrusted to the Council.

The Mine Health and Safety Council derives its mandate and responsibilities from Sections 43 and 44 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, which roles are listed as:

  • To advise the Minister on all occupational health and safety issues in the mining industry relating to legislation, research and promotion;
  • To review and develop legislation for recommendation to the Minister;
  • To promote health and safety in the mining industry;
  • To oversee research in relation to health and safety in the mining industry; and
  • To liaise with other bodies concerned with health and safety issues.

I point these out so we don't lose sight, when examining financial statements, that that with which the Council is discharged, has far greater impact on human beings working in the mines and on their dependents. According to the Department of Minerals and Energy, the year in review saw 209 actual fatalities in the mining industry. This translates into a fatality rate of 0,21 per million hours worked and 0,46 per 1000 persons at work. The death of one mineworker is one too many.

Equally important, is the need to address the serious health challenges in the sector. This means more resources to deal with such occupational health matters as Tuberculosis (TB) associated with exposure to silica dust. The increase in prevalence of HIV-infection has led to a doubling in new TB cases and increased mortality. Noise-induced hearing loss has also been recognized as major occupational health risk in the South African mining industry.

With this reality in mind, it is incumbent upon us to hold the Council to account, in fulfilling its functions. It is disheartening therefore, that we table in this House, a report that notes the following:

The Mine Health and Safety Council had a poor control environment:

  1. there was no segregation of duties throughout the accounting division which was exacerbated by the suspension of the General Manager/ Financial Manager.
  2. capacity within the finance division was limited which severely impacted on the efficient performance of the audit.
  3. the corporate structure of the entity had a negative impact on operations such as the merging of the roles of General Manager and Financial Manager into a single position which created a void when this individual was suspended.
  4. a complete fixed asset register was not available, in violation of both the PFMA and Treasury regulations.

Despite all of the above, one has to be optimistic that the goal of zero injuries and fatalities will always be striven for. Whilst we fully expect business and labour to play their part, we have a responsibility to hold the regulators equally to their side of the bargain. Our people expect no less.

I thank you!